New project ‘Exploring the physics of superheroes’ has its origins

New outreach project involving BW Science, Midlands Science, and the Institute of Physics seeks to inspire transition years in physics using superheroes.

The one thing that I love about science communication and outreach is sharing scientific stories in front of live audiences at schools, festivals, companies, and other venues. As has been the case for many, live presentations have been few and far between in light of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years.

Over the past few months though, in-person events and projects have kicked off again, with the final few months of this year set to be my busiest ever in science outreach.

And one project kicked off on Friday September 16th in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, as I travelled to the Lake County to present the first workshops of my new superhero project entitled ‘Exploring the Physics of Superheroes’.

Lots of gesturing about physics and superheroes during the opening of one of the workshops in Mullingar, Friday September 16th 2022. (Image credit: Midlands Science/Aoife Scanlon).

Pilot project

For this pilot project, which is a collaboration with Midlands Science and funded by the Institute of Physics Ireland, I’m presenting a mix of in-person and online workshops to two schools in Mullingar. The classes taking part are made up of Transition Year students, and over the next five weeks or so, they’ll be introduced to a range of topics in physics using superheroes as a continuous point of reference throughout.

So, what topics will be covered in ‘Exploring the Physics of Superheroes’? For this project, I didn’t want it to be a case of me telling the students what I’d like them to know. Instead, I want the students to tell me what they’d like me to talk to them about. In the first workshops on Friday September 16th, the students were invited to pick two optional topics that they’d like to see covered throughout the project, which they did and they made some interesting choices.

Support materials

Besides the course materials, the students will also be provided with other support materials. Each week, a blog will appear on this site, containing supplementary information for the students on the topic of that week. And, in addition, there will be videos on my YouTube channel ‘The Superhero Scientist‘ in relation to each workshop.

I must say that the first workshops went very well. The students were engaged with the content, and there were plenty of questions and comments on superheroes and physics. Students were asked to answer Mentimeter questions throughout, with the questions focusing on their favourite superheroes, physics topics, and superpowers.

Group project and the final live event

Finally, the students will also take part in group projects in their respective classes. In the final weeks of the project, the students will present their project idea to the rest of their class. The best group project from each school will then go on to present their project at the final wrap-up event in late October in Mullingar.

From my perspective it’s great to be back in the classroom, teaching physics, and meeting students. The added bonus for me is that I get to teach a course on the physics of superheroes! Looking forward to the coming weeks of physics and superheroes!

More information

For further information on this project, check out this article on the website for Midlands Science.

About ‘Exploring the Physics of Superheroes’

‘Exploring the Physics of Superheroes’ is a new outreach project which allows students to experience the excitement of superheroes whilst learning about the physics that make such stories possible. The project is managed by Midlands Science and delivered by physicist Dr. Barry Fitzgerald (BW Science and The Superhero Scientist), who has done extensive research in this area. The project is supported by the Institute of Physics, whose Limit Less campaign aims to support young people to change the world by doing physics.